The Harry Potter Reread remembers when midnight showing of movies were all the rage, but now they tend to show them at 8pm instead and the reread sort of misses midnight movie premiers, but it’s nice not to be sleep deprived, so there’s that?
Today we’re diving under the lake and getting in some quality godfather time. It’s Chapters 26 and 27 of The Goblet of Fire—The Second Task and Padfoot Returns.
Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.
Chapter 26—The Second Task
Harry tells Ron and Hermione about what happened last night while they’re practicing Banishing Charms in class. They come up with no conclusions, but a heavy amount of suspicion for both Crouch (on Hermione’s end) and Snape (on Harry and Ron’s end). Harry sends a letter to Sirius to let him know what he saw, then starts thinking about how he’s going to breathe underwater for an hour for the Second Task. He scours the library and finds nothing that gives him even a clue. Two days before the task, Harry gets a letter from Sirius asking for the dates of their next Hogsmeade trip, which Harry sends back to him.
They have a lesson with Hagrid (he’s continued to teach unicorns and even brought some babies for everyone to pet), and Harry thinks of telling Hagrid that he can’t figure out how to breathe underwater. But Hagrid’s pride in him prevents Harry from speaking up. The trio head to the library and desperately go through every book they can get their hands on, but Fred shows up to take Ron and Hermione away. McGonagall wants them and he doesn’t know why. They plan to meet him in the common room that night, but Harry waits and they never show up. Terrified that he’s about to blow the task, Harry rushes back to the library under the Invisibility Cloak and keeps searching through books until he falls asleep on one.
That morning, Dobby wakes Harry up and tells him he has to hurry—there’s only ten minutes until the task. Dobby found the book Harry needed and has also brought him gillyweed, which will allow Harry to breathe underwater. He tells Harry that the merpeople have his “Wheezy”… by which he means Ron. Harry arrives to the task moments before it begins. He eats the gillyweed as he wades into the water, and discovers that it lets him grow gills and flippers. He swims down into the lake and encounters grindylows, which he handily escapes. Then Myrtle shows up to point Harry in the direction of the mermaids. Harry swims for about 20 minutes and reaches their village underwater.
The merpeople are gray with dark green hair, and they watch Harry intently. He swim until he finds the town square, where there is a choir of them singing, and four people lashed to a stone statue; Ron, Hermione, Cho Chang, and a girl Harry is sure must be Fleur’s little sister. He cuts Ron free with the rock, but the other champions are nowhere in sight, so he thinks to cut them all free. The merpeople hold him back, refusing to let him help. Cedric arrives with a bubble of air surround him head, and tells Harry he got lost—Krum and Fleur were coming too. He cuts Cho free and takes her with him. Krum shows up as a half-transfigured shark (he didn’t do a very good job of it), and Harry has to direct him to use a rock to cut Hermione free before he chomps her in half. He leave, but Harry waits, concerned for Fleur’s sister. When Fleur doesn’t show, he threatens the merpeople with his wand and cuts her sister free, dragging both her and Ron to the surface.
Harry’s gillyweed starts to run out on him, but he makes it to the surface and deposits Ron and Fleur’s sister on the bank. Ron tells him that it was silly for Harry to have saved the little girl; they weren’t about to let anyone actually drown in the task. Fleur is extremely grateful to have her sister (Gabrielle) back, however; she was attacked by Grindylows and couldn’t make it. Harry returned outside the time limit, and now is beginning to feel stupid for not realizing that no one would have been allowed to drown during the task. The Merchieftainess speaks to Dumbledore about what happened underwater, and the judges converse. Fleur gets 25 points out of 50 for failing to reach her hostage in time. Krum receives 40 points for his error in transfiguring himself and getting his hostage out second. Cedric is awarded 47 points for being the first to emerge (even he was also out of the time limit). All the judges except Karkaroff are impressed at Harry’s choice to stay with the hostages, so they decide to award him 45 points. This ties him for first place with Cedric.
The champions will have to turn up on June 24th for the final task, but it’s hard for Harry to be too upset after all that.
Harry and Ron aren’t that great at getting their pillows (best lesson ever, Professor Flitwick) banished to the right area until Harry’s not really thinking about it; he gets the charm right when he’s discussing other things. Which brings me to the questions of how much the subconscious informs your talent as a magic user. We know and have discussed how these people subconsciously use magic when they’re in danger and such, but it does make me wonder if teachers ever encourage students to trigger their subconscious minds, particularly if they are getting blocked on certain lessons. It seems as though it might be useful in the long run. (Particularly for kids like Neville, who seem to block themselves consciously at every turn.)
Hermione brings up that Harry would know how to do human Transfiguration if he were past his sixth year, and here we really do see where Harry is at a disadvantage being a younger champion than the rest. Which makes it seem utterly ridiculous that extra lesson time wasn’t set to catch him up in places. As is, you almost have to let Harry cheat during the tournament; even just having Ron and Hermione there to lend a hand is something Harry desperately needs. Of course, he could have started looking up the information he needed earlier, but what if he’d decided that he wanted to do human transfiguration to handle the task and needed a hand? Is McGonagall not allowed to help him do that? What exactly constitutes cheating here?
Hermione’s fury over the library letting her down for the first time is adorable, as are most of the hilarious book titles in this chapter. Great asides in an otherwise fraught situation.
So Dobby has the whole thing figured out, and it works in that it’s relevant for later (sort of). But on reading it in this chapter it all seems far too pat that he just has the whole thing under control, yet somehow still can’t manage to wake Harry up in time? Ostensibly he heard about what Harry needed last night, not this morning, and I’m sure it took a little while to find Harry since he wasn’t in his room, but it really just strikes me as tension for tension’s sake here.
And now we’re to the Second Task, and my first musing is what the other champions (I’m assuming Viktor didn’t have this issue being half-shark) did to keep themselves warm while using the Bubble-Head charm? It’s never mentioned, but obviously that charm by itself would not prevent Cedric or Fleur from freezing to death in the lake. It’s flipping Scotland in winter. The other question I have is consent based; this task hinges around the champions each being required to retrieve someone precious to them—were those precious people allowed to decide they’d rather not participate? If they were given that ability, were other people on standby to ask in their place? I have this sudden image of Harry being required to retrieve Hagrid from the lake, which is simultaneously funny as all get out and really darned cute.
Also, how were these people selected? Hermione gets a hard time when people realize that she was selected as Viktor’s special someone, and that’s interesting, given that they ostensibly had to retrieve Fleur’s sister from Beauxbatons (or home if she’s to young to be at school, I forget at the moment). So there’s no one else in Krum’s life who currently matters more than Hermione? How did the tournament officials discern that?
The problem with both Ron and Hermione both being used in this task is that I think it makes people assume Harry could have had either of his friends used here, and it simply wasn’t Hermione because she ended up being Viktor’s hostage. And I think that’s wrong. Ron’s use in the Second Task really tells us in no uncertain terms; Ron is the most important person to Harry at this stage in his life. Fwendship. *sniff*
So. Merpeople. Interestingly, there are mermaids like the pretty one painted in the prefect’s bathroom—the more traditional-seeming merpeople are found in warmer waters in Potterverse, and are often a member of the siren subspecies. The oldest record places the first of their kind in Greece, but in modern day there are merpeople in many other parts of the world. The ones in the lake are likely selkies, and the merpeople of Ireland are called Merrows. Initially, wizards refused to give the title of Being to merpeople because Elfrida Clagg, Chief of the Wizards’ Council, included an ability to speak human language in her definition. Because Mermish couldn’t be understood above water, they were disqualified, which upset both merpeople and their allies the centaurs. The definition of Being was revised in the early 19th century, but by that point merpeople and centaurs had no desire to be associated with the other dark creatures that the Ministry had placed in that category, so they refused the revision to their status.
This is particularly interesting because, as we see in this chapter, merpeople do not have magical ability (or at least as we are given to understand it). When Harry draws his wand on them to free Gabrielle, they are frightened of it. So magic users have quite a bit of leverage over their community, and the early decision to keep them from Being status is just one more bit of nastiness. It seems fair to assume that the merpeople in the Black Lake probably only have a good relationship with Hogwarts due to whoever happens to be in charge of the school at any given time. We can see that Dumbledore has a good relationship with them, as he speaks their language and appears to have a rapport with their chieftainess.
Harry’s actions during the task are notable to me when we get a better idea of who knows the hostages will live regardless and who doesn’t. The hostages themselves know because they’re not likely to volunteer if they might die in the process. Ron thinks it should be obvious that they would never be left to drown, but that’s probably only because he was told so. Krum and Cedric probably also assume that the hostages will be safe, since I find it hard to believe that they wouldn’t help Harry if they thought differently. But Percy clearly doesn’t know this because his concern for Ron when he emerges from the lake is palpable and urgent. With that taken into consideration, it’s likely that the audience was not informed either way on what would happen to the hostages if their champion failed to retrieve them.
(On a side note, this moment with Percy is SO. IMPORTANT. It is one of the few times we see him display genuine concern for his family, and that basically informs us of Percy’s endgame; he makes many mistakes, but his return to the fold can be predicted from here. The idea that Ron, his littlest brother, might be hurt is terrifying to him. Ultimately, Percy does care, but he is incapable of showing it until the situation turns truly dire in his mind.)
So in some ways, Harry taking the task seriously could be bound up in the fact that he’s young. He’s not taking the way adults think into consideration when he’s acting, which the older champions are more likely to do. On the other hand, plenty of people in the audience seemed to think the danger was real, and by that token, giving Harry extra consideration for his actions is incredibly fair. You know, unless you count the fact that without Dobby he’d be unable to participate, and without Myrtle, he’d probably have never found the hostages at all.
Yeah, the Triwizard Tournament is borked.
Chapter 27—Padfoot Returns
Ron gets to share in Harry’s spotlight for once, and starts telling embellished versions of the second task story until Hermione gives him a hard time and he reverts to the facts. Harry gets a letter from Sirius telling him to be at a certain spot in Hogsmeade on their next visit, which leaves Harry feeling cheerier that usual when he heads to Potions. When they arrive, Pansy Parkinson throws that Witch Weekly magazine at Hermione, telling her to check its pages for something interesting. It turns out to be an article about Hermione and Harry by Rita Skeeter. The tabloid piece claims that Harry and Hermione were dating, but that Hermione had abandoned Harry for the also-famous Viktor Krum, and that she was probably using love potions to have her way. Hermione isn’t too fussed (though Ron is quite upset on her behalf), but she does want to know how Skeeter found out that Viktor did, in fact, invite her to Bulgaria over the summer.
Snape overhears them and finds the magazine. He reads the article in front of the class and separates the trio, sitting Harry in front of his desk. While Harry works, Snape begins to provoke him, insisting that he’s a rule-breaking slacker. Then he tells harry never to enter his office again. Harry insists that he didn’t, but Snape says that Boomslang Skin and Gillyweed went missing, and he knows who’s to blame. (Harry knows that Dobby took the latter, and that Hermione used the former in the Polyjuice Potion second year.) Snape then threatens to use Veritaserum on Harry, an illegal substance controlled by the Ministry, to get him to spill his secrets if the boy isn’t careful.
Karkaroff storms into class demanding to speak to Snape. Severus tells him to come after class, and Karkaroff insists that the Potions Master has been avoiding him. Harry pretends to knock over his sup pies so that he can clean while the two talk at the end of class. Karkaroff is again panicking over something on his forearm. Snape refuses to talk about, and Harry books it out of the classroom to tell Ron and Hermione.
They go to Hogsmeade on the weekend, buy Dobby some socks and meet Sirius (in dog form) at the end of a windy road. He leads them up a mountain and into a cave where he and Buckbeak are staying. They hand over a bag of food they’ve brought for him, and Harry tells Sirius that he’s concerned for him being so close. Sirius insists he wants to be near because he thinks things are getting fishier. He shows them issues of the Daily Prophet talking about Crouch and his mystery illness. Harry gets a chance to tell Sirius about what happened at the World Cup, and suggests that someone may have stolen Harry’s wand in the Top Box while he was watching the match.
They come up to Bagman’s name, but Ron isn’t sure. Hermione insists it wasn’t Winky, and Sirius agrees. Sirius has a beef with Crouch because the man sent him to Azakaban without a trial. He says that Crouch was tipped for Minister of Magic back in the day. When he tells the trio they’re too young to understand, Ron calls him on it, and Sirius gamely begins to explain what things were like back then. He tells them that Crouch fought violence with violence in the First War against Voldemort. He licensed Aurors to kill dark wizards and allowed Unforgivables to be used on suspects. But once the war was over, he got a nasty shock—his son had fallen in with Death Eaters and they were trying to return Voldemort to power.
Crouch gave the boy a trial, but wouldn’t risk showing any kind of mercy to someone who had so threatened his reputation. His son was sent to Azakaban and he died within a year. According to Sirius, this was relatively common at Azakaban. Plenty of people stopped eating, lost the will to live, etc. Sirius tells them that Crouch and his wife were allowed a deathbed visit, that Crouch’s wife died soon after, that his son was buried at Azkaban because he never came for the body. It destroyed Crouch’s career. The trio begin to wonder why he was poking around the castle, and Ron and Hermione start fighting about Snape again.
Harry asks Sirius what he thinks about Snape, and Sirius thinks that Ron and Hermione both have good points on him. Sirius recalls the Snape he knew at school, how he knew all about the Dark Arts and had friends who all turned out to be Death Eaters. But he doesn’t think Dumbledore would trust the man if he’d ever been a Death Eater. He figures Moody might just be keeping an eye on all teachers and notes that Moody never killed Death Eaters if he could help it. Sirius asks Ron to asks Percy about Crouch if he can manage it, and Bertha Jorkins; he knew her, and remembers her being the opposite of forgetful. In fact, she was quite a gossip. He tells them to keep sending him notes, but not to sneak out to see him. He leads them back to the village as a dog, and Ron muses on whether Percy would ever sell out his family the way Crouch did.
So the article comes up, and Hermione takes it appropriately in stride, having a good laugh off of it. But Ron is offended on her behalf because she’s been painted as a “scarlet women.” Which makes Hermione laugh more, which is when Ron explains that that’s what his mother calls them. It’s a perfect example of how human and flawed every single character in this series is. Molly Weasley, who is basically the embodiment of motherhood, who is such a giving and loving person, still has some incredibly poisonous ideas about other women. (As we’ll see even more in later chapters here, when she actually assumes that what’s in this article is true.) She’s a good human being, but she’s far from perfection, and what’s more, she can be hilariously old-fashioned. Scarlet woman, indeed.
Poor Ron is so confused by Viktor trying to whisk Hermione off to Bulgaria for the summer that he actually starts grinding his pestle into the desk because he’s not paying any attention to it at all. Poor Ron. At least he knows better than to open his big mouth about it. And we get our next Rita Skeeter clue! But we’re still being misdirected with the idea of an Invisibility Cloak.
I kind of want to start keeping a scoreboard on Snape’s many unforgivable moments of teaching. Reading the article out loud is straight up bullying, but then he pulls Harry to the front of the classroom so he can quietly threaten to use illegal substances on him. Just. What. We get another really important clue for not-Moody here that I remember really not getting the first time. Snape brings up the boomslang skin being stolen from his stores along with the gillyweed, and for some reason, Harry assumes that he’s talking about the stuff Hermione stole for Polyjuice Potion in their second year. Which is just silly, and should be making it clear to Harry that someone is brewing damned Polyjuice Potion at school. But then again, if my teacher was threatening to truth serum me, I might not be sharp enough to put two and two together either.
Karkaroff should get some kind of award for the slightest sense of self-preservation ever seen anywhere. STOP TRYING TO TALK ABOUT THE DARK MARK IN PUBLIC, YOU ASS. I know we need him for ominous clues, but seriously, even the first time I read the book I found myself wishing that he’d keep his mouth shut. It’s embarrassing to evil minions everywhere. Get some subtlety, dude. Learn how to lurk in corners.
The bit where the trio buy Dobby whacky novelty socks is something I could read forever. Someone write me a 5000 word fic of just that. I know there is plenty of Potter sock fic out there, but I’ve never seen that one. Gimme.
Totally irrelevant aside; when Sirius leads them into the cave and he’s still a dog and he forgets to drop the newspaper before he changes back into a human, so he ends up turning back into a guy holding newspapers in his mouth? The best. The best thing. And now I’m imaging Sirius doing this with all sorts of things. Balls. Sticks. Dead mice. No, Sirius! Bad dog.
There’s a lot of question between the adults in these novels about how much information should be given to the kids, but in some ways, I feel like Sirius is the only one who gets it right. Molly wants to shelter them from everything, Dumbledore kinda slips things in there, but leaves out major points so he can alter the board as he sees fit. But once Ron calls Sirius on how they’re kept out of the loop, Sirius listens. I don’t know that telling them everything is always the best policy (they’re still so young), but he does it for the right reasons—because he respects them. He respects that everyone else is making decisions on their behalf despite what the three of them have already done. This theme will come to the forefront more in the following book, but this is the first time we see Sirius handle it and I’ve always appreciated that he tells them what he knows.
Of course, he’s present in the plot to feed us the information that everyone in the wizarding world thinks is true. Ultimately, his job is to set up all the red herrings and clues that will surface at the end. Sirius doesn’t know about the body switch up with Barty Crouch Jr. and his mom at Azkaban, and that key error is what prevents the whole mystery from coming clear. Still, it’s really nice to get some cohesive narrative on Crouch Sr., and what a narrative that turns out to be. Sirius has a pretty good grasp on the guy, especially when it comes to putting his actions in perspective for the time period, and it’s incredibly useful for the reader.
I want to make a note of this one line from Sirius, when Ron tries to pass off Hermione concern about Winky:
“She’s got the measure of Crouch better than you have, Ron. If you want to know what a man is like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
I’m not going to address this quote here… but I want to put a pin in it for the next book. Because this quote tells us something incredibly important about Sirius Black. Especially when we take into account how he ends up treating Kreacher. There’s an upset in his perspective, a deterioration that really takes root in the following book, and it’s something I’d like to delve into later.
So here’s a question; either Sirius is deliberately playing dumb, or he has no idea about Dark Mark tattoos even though he’s a member of the Order of the Phoenix? Really? Because they tell him that Karkaroff shows Snape something on his arm, and Sirius is all “huh, no idea what that’s about” and that’s damned hard to believe. So maybe he’s playing dumb, but either way it’s weird. Of course, part of the problem here is that Sirius hasn’t had the ability to talk to Dumbledore and get filled in on the whole Snape situation, which skews his perspective on the matter.
And then we end on that aside about Percy, and it lands harder when you know that Ron is right. Ow.